[Polity] The Preamble

The Preamble refers to the introduction or preface to the constitution. It contains the essence of the entire constitution. The Constituent Assembly first met on Dec. 9th, 1946 and the preamble to the Indian constitution based on the ‘Objective Resolution’ drafted and moved by Pandit Nehru on Dec. 13th, 1947.

Text of the Preamble

We, The People of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into aSOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:-

  • JUSTICE - Social, Economic and Political;
  • LIBERTY - of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
  • EQUALITY - of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all
  • FRATERNITY - assuring the dignity of the nation;

Components of the Preamble

Some of the important components of the preamble are as follows:

(a) Firstly, It indicates the source of authority of the constitution i.e. it states that the constitution has to derive its authority from the people of India.

(b) Secondly, it defines declares India as a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic and Republican State.

(c) And, it defines the objects which the constitution seeks to promote, such as - justice, liberty, equality & fraternity etc.

Preamble as a Part of the Constitution

The Supreme Court of India in the Berubari Case (1960) specially opined that Preamble is not of part of the constitution. (Verdict by Justice Gajendragadkar)(*) Reference by the President of India under article 143 of the constitution on the implementation of the Indo-Pakistan agreement relating to Berubari Union and exchange of enclave - 1960.

Later on in the Kesavahanda Bharati case (1973) Justice Sikri of the Supreme court rejected the earlier opinion and stated the Preamble is a past of the constitution. However is not enforceable.The Supreme court observed that the Preamble is of extreme importance and the constitution should be read and interpreted in the light of the grand noble vision expressed in the preamble.

Amendment of the Preamble

The question as whether the preamble can be amended under Article 368, arose for the first time in Kesavananda Bharati case (1873). It was urged that the preamble cannot be amended as it is not a part of the constitution. The petitioner contended that the amending power in Article 368 cannot be used to destroy or damage the basic elements of the constitution.

The Supreme Court, however held that the preamble is a part of the constitution, and hence it can be amended, subject to the condition that the basic or the fundamental features of the constitution as contained in the preamble cannot be altered by an amendment sender Article 368. So far, the preamble has been amended only once, i.e. in 1976, by the 42nd constitutional Amendment Act, which inducted three new words - Socialist, Secular & Integrity to it.

Conclusion / Importance

Like, any other part of the constitution, the Preamble was also enacted by the constituent Assembly, but it was inducted in the end. The main reason this was to ensure that the preamble has to be in conformity with the constitution as adopted by the Constituent Assembly. While forwarding the Preamble for voting, the President of the Constituent Assembly said. “ The question is that Preamble stands part of the constitution”
Hence the opinion held by the supreme court that the Preamble is a part of the constitution, is totally in consonance with the opinion of the framers of the constitution. Furthermore, the recognition if the Preamble as the part of the constitution has enhanced its value as an aid to interpretation of the constitution.

However, it is important to keep several in notice:
(i) The Preamble is not a source of power, Power must be founded on a specific provision.

(ii) Preamble cannot be regarded as a source of probation or limitation upon the powers of a legislature.

(iii) It is non-justiciable, i.e. its provisions are not enforceable in courts of law.

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